They had (or are having, those things are hard to pinpoint except for the actual molotovs) over back in Greece “um princípio de quiprocó, um pequeno quebra-quebra entre eles” beginning with the death of a student. If you haven’t checked out BigPicture’s page on that one, you should.
Now that is the world where this new POTUS is coming up, this one guy who has the hubris of saying himself the harbinger of hope, the herald of change. And you gotta give him at least that: he is smart. Usually, i will prefer the dumbest candidate available for the US, seen that i do think this country has a hand that is too heavy, but not this time. I have heard (read) him called something like a wolf in a lamb’s clothing, and i kind of think he is more like a wolf period, i do not think he stands for “good” politics, nor do i think he will refrain from politics as usual, but i was really hoping he would step up to the so-called most powerful job on earth.
And the reason is just one: i think things are getting hairy.
See the boy with the slingshot. He not only has a slingshot, made of rubber, pretty straightforward technology, he is also wearing a jacket that i guess is composed of synthetic fibres, that bears an ellipsoid that supposedly represents the wing of a deity that some people living near him but thousands of years ago came up with. “Nike” is supposed to be the name of goddess of victory or something in the Greek Pantheon, but i suppose on the photo above it does not seem all that Greek.
What is it? Ambiguity? Is it misappropriation? Ambivalence?
Does it have to do with the “financial crisis”? Does it not have to do? Seeming as the news has not given a lot of importance to the riots, you are supposed to judge this phenomenon an isolated one. But can anything that happens into this maquinita that is Earth really be considered “isolated”?
And i am not here to tell you of the evils of capitalism or the greed of mortage-backed-securities operators or the beauty of pure-Greek-classical-culture. I am trying to point out that there is no single value that can explain our circumstance.
Take the financial crisis for example. Everyone and their cat is now happy to say that more regulation would have made everything fine, that the crisis is the downfall of the “Chicago School”, that they have been proven wrong and that the need for regulation is now clear and objective. But does “regulate more” shed any light onto the very idea of virtual money that has been the boon and the bane of all this hurricane?
I personally like the idea of “systemic risk” and it’s recent exposure. To tell the truth, i think risk itself as-a-concept only makes sense in a system level. But i digress. To understand this crisis, or for that matter any other one from the last 50 years, another perspective would be needed.
For examples, computers are here to stay, and that means that money will be accounted through computers, and that in turn means that money will get more and more abstract regardless of regulation. No regulation will shift the stakes in this process. Is it a bad thing? Maybe. It diminishes our control of the flux, it de-emphasizes the personal aspect of economic relations, it abstracts away some of the fundamentals that did up to a short time ago anchor the metabolism of societies.
In that situation, you would expect the economists, even more the ones at the birthplace of many of the current ideas, that “Chicago School” i talked about, to be thoroughly committed to understand what is going on. Sadly, that very centre of economic thinking can’t bring itself to overlook the departmental struggles and come up with new ideas, new ways to look at the world. No, they prefer to squabble over who was right, who was wrong, who is to blame.
Obviously, i am judging by a thing i read at a site of what i believe to be a major news corporation.
And that is, in and of itself, remarkable. That there even exists a whole community of people writing about scattered pieces of information floating around, it does not make much sense. At least if you try to imagine a bunch of monkeys making a lot of ado about, you know, another bunch of monkeys living in another hemisphere who had some peculiar brain-activity. And all of that in real time.
Because, in the end, we are still a bunch of apes. Newcomer ones at that. Nowhere near the stability into the food chain of, say, alligators.
And you know, i can imagine chimps doing some complex reasoning. For example, in a quote from a book about factory workers in China — who probably are worse-off than you imagine (having poorer conditions than you imagine) but are much less victims than we would picture them, having developed themselves as individuals pretty much like any other ape, i mean, citizen, of an big-nation would — anyway in this site about this book i find the quote:
Without ever leaving Dongguan, these [factory] workers had figured out the global hierarchy of nations. American and European bosses treated workers best, followed by Japanese, Korean, Hong Kong, and then Taiwanese factory owners. Domestic Chinese factories were the worst, because “they always go bankrupt,” one migrant explained to me.
I can imagine a chimp having in his mind a very clear difference between the Japanese, Korean, Hong-Kong-an and Taiwanese chimps and how he would behave in relation to each one.
In Matrix, for anyone caring to take a notice, the Agent Smith pretty much says, you know, that the machines are already in control, like, not there in the film but here, now. (Paul, i did copy it from the net this time, hope you happier;)
I say 'your civilization' because
as soon as we start thinking for
you, it really becomes our
civilization, which is, of course,
what this is all about.
The machines “thinking for us” pretty much describes the whole Wall St. affair and how basically everyone knows why the financial crises happened but no one has a clue of what it really is or why we couldn’t see it coming or even what does it mean.
But if we extend the argument, how far back can we take it? When did the machines “start thinking for us”? When was the war lost? What about when the Manhattan Project used the ENIAC to perform a calculation that wasn’t even conceivable to do by hand in the path to produce the Atomic Bomb? How about a bit sooner, when an IBM machine was used to decide which jews where slaughtered when at which concentration camp? But actually, i would like to know when was the last time a bank relied on “purely human” account balancing without even one mechanical calculator (something like a mechanical cash-register that would be a descendant to Pascal gear-calculator).
So, doesn’t the current popularity of simpler-than-competitors gadgets (no, not the iPhone, i do not buy this one, but the Wii, the EeePC and some others), doesn’t this valuation of simpleness tell something about our relation to our world?
And to anyone thinking that “we want to go back to what is really important in life”, think again. Going for simplicity is not going to be the mainstream trend. We are not getting rid of technology, we are becoming it, to the point that — i’ll admit it, hope you do too — that story about people being buried with their mobile phones does not strike me as strange at all, though i would prefer my Palm to my mobile phone, but that is also moot since by the time i go to the grave the differences between the kinds of gadgets will have blurred beyond choice — and that prognostication does not require me to get old enough to lose my babyface.
It all is hard to understand in the level of our ordinary lives, it is hard to take decisions that are influenced by this vast, complicated, interconnected circumstance we live in, like if you should buy the green phone or the grey one, to figure how our parent-son relationships are to be managed when we add to the mix a mobile phone and myspace. Now imagine if you are in the awkward position of deciding about the lives of others — say, millions of others directly and almost everyone (really everyone) else indirectly. Like this guy with the funny name.
I consider it has become pretty much self-evident that a idiotic leader (it seems the hoax that he was actually retarded have been refuted, but, let’s face the fact, he is dumb, dumb, so dumb it hurts, so dumb that the best press corps in the world can’t make it less obvious) is enough to sink a nation, even if this nation happens to be the self-righteous proud nation without a name (i mean, point me one country that is not a union of states…). Bushinho, as some friends call him, pretty much took his nation in one of the most comfortable positions it had been in a long time and thrown the country into deep shit. Sometimes it seems he managed this all by himself, but i am pretty sure he had a lot of guys backing him.
Anyways, to make sense of all that, which was the purpose of this post, at some time, let’s make some guesses. How is that for reliable methodology? ;)
The first guess is that, well, things are going to hell. Which is to say, no the various “Bailouts” will not fix the American economy, since basically they are just giving lots of money for the dumb guys who took idiotic measures. And i do not mean just “stop overpaying big company guys”. That is pretty much irrelevant. I mean stop being dumb about your money, like buying out the car maker (starts wrong) that sells a lot of models that basically look the same (keeps wrong) and has a big disdain about energy technologies (ends wrong). Didn’t anyone spell it out?
But to be more serious, is not hell, it is just that difficulties will continue cropping up, and they will continue to do so from unexpected directions. In fact, i think we should begin to bred the stance of mind whereby we actually get startled if something develops as it was expected to.
A second guess is that most of the big changes have already gone by. We will not see in the medium-term changes with so big an impact as, say, the internet or mobile phones or contraceptives or The Atomic Bomb or automobiles. There will be change and so-called “innovation”, and lots of it, but not deep all-encompassing ones. That in a time-span of say half a century to a century, at which point the small ones begin to mount their importance to the point that they begin to seem major.
Three: we will remain apes. For example, we will continue with the hatred, the fear, the helplessness, the pissing contests, all the macho behaviour, all the self-deceptions, all the unhealthfulness in relationships. And that will continue to be just all right, despite our disregard for the deity AND science.
Lots, literally lots of peoples and institutions will try to heap egotistical benefits from all the possible problems and unrest. There will be a guy trying to fraud something or someone at every corner. And many, but many many, will succeed. And though by all means society can survive most of it, we will need to get very, very clever in developing ways to put that tendency in check if we are to have even a modicum of harmony in our social processes (and lives).
So, it is foolish to believe that there is nothing connecting the factory girls in China to simpler gadgets to riots in cradle-of-civilization-Greece to the “Hope” campaign (that built lots of expectations, which is a certain recipe for frustration). But it is even dumber to see any one “answer” to this circumstance.
For it is not a question. It needs not answering.
It is a world. It needs building. But clever, clever building, i dare say even: intelligent building.
It is not a zero sum game. It has never been, really, but at many points in the process the guys playing it like it was (which is to say, greedily) did come up better. Now the feedback loops have gone so intricate that pushing too hard will only cause mess.
We must create new possibilities out of nothing, just like for example the “web 2.0” or the Enlightenment or Nietzsche or, you know, the guys who dare to look out of the box do.
And no, i do not believe Obama stands for any of that. But i do believe that he is one guy who would see it if it happened in front of his eyes. Which we can’t say of Palin, or Bush or any other public figure lately.
So, i was hoping for Obama, even if i agree with everything Baekho (gone offline, so no link) had to say about him. He is not the solution, but sure the options were, like, shit hitting the fan, and one less complication in our extremely complex times is a good thing.
Now, let’s just keep that spirit: giving flowers to the riot police. You know, it is corny, it is naive, it is even self-deceiving to a point, but… It carries that intention of rising above the murkiness of our tired status-quo. We can turn that into Satya Graha, the true (as-in-meaningful) power. Which for now i’ve been calling strengthbeauty.
And, to end it up, just look at that graphic for the reverse-pointed gun! Amazing, one of the most powerful images i’ve seen in a long long time.